Battles Without Honor and Humanity

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For the instrumental piece by Tomoyasu Hotei, see Battle Without Honor or Humanity.
Battles Without Honor and Humanity
Battles Without Honor and Humanity.jpg
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Kazuo Kasahara
Kōichi Iiboshi (story)
Starring Bunta Sugawara
Hiroki Matsukata
Kunie Tanaka
Tsunehiko Watase
Nobuo Kaneko
Music by Toshiaki Tsushima
Cinematography Sadaji Yoshida
Distributed by Toei
Release date(s) January 13, 1973
Running time 99 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Battles Without Honor and Humanity (仁義なき戦い Jingi Naki Tatakai?) is a 1973 Japanese yakuza film directed by Kinji Fukasaku. It is adapted from a series of newspaper articles by journalist Kōichi Iiboshi, that were rewrites of a manuscript originally written by real-life yakuza Kōzō Minō while he was in prison. It is the first film in a five-part series that Fukasaku made in a span of just two years.

Battles Without Honor and Humanity won the 1974 Kinema Junpo Awards for Best Film, Best Actor (Bunta Sugawara) and Best Screenplay (Kazuo Kasahara). In 2009, the magazine named it fifth on a list of the Top 10 Japanese Films of All Time. Due to the series' commercial and critical popularity it was followed by another three-part series, New Battles Without Honor and Humanity. The film is often called the "Japanese Godfather,"[1] and marks a departure from traditional yakuza movies which had, for the most part, been tales of chivalry set in pre-war Japan. In the western market it is also known under the titles, Tarnished Code of Yakuza (Australia), War Without a Code, and The Yakuza Papers.

Synopsis[edit]

The violent, documentary-like film chronicles the underworld tribulations of Shozo Hirono (Bunta Sugawara), a young ex-soldier and street thug in post-war Hiroshima. Starting in the open-air black markets of bombed-out Hiroshima in 1945, the film spans a period of more than ten years. The plot consists of a changing of the guard of new families and organizations with the same feuds and people, punctuated by the gritty violence. The overall tone of the series is bleak, violent and chaotic, expressing the futility of the struggles between yakuza families.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Set in post-war Japan, Fukasaku drew on his experiences as a child during World War II for Battles Without Honor and Humanity. At fifteen he worked in a munitions factory with other children that was regularly bombed. The director recalled "even though we were friends working together, the only thing we would be thinking of was self-preservation. We would try to get behind each other or beneath dead bodies to avoid the bombs.... I also had to clean up all the dead bodies.... I'm sure those experiences have influenced the way I look at violence." The film, noted for its "extreme violence," opens with Japanese soldiers, during America's occupation of their country, stealing food and murdering for a bowl of rice.[2]

The screenplay by Kazuo Kasahara adapts a series of newspaper articles by journalist Kōichi Iiboshi,[3] that were rewrites of a manuscript originally written by real-life yakuza Kōzō Minō while he was in prison.[4]

Release[edit]

Battles Without Honor and Humanity has been released on home video and aired on television, the latter with some scenes cut. A Blu-ray box set compiling all five films in the series was released on March 21, 2013 to celebrate its 40th anniversary.[5]

All five films in the series were released on DVD in North America by Home Vision Entertainment in 2004, under the moniker The Yakuza Papers. A 6-disc DVD box set containing them all was also released. It includes a bonus disc containing interviews with director William Friedkin, discussing the influence of the films in America; subtitle translator Linda Hoaglund, discussing her work on the films; David Kaplan, Kenta Fukasaku, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a Toei producer and a biographer among others.[6]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Battles Without Honor and Humanity won three awards at the 1974 Kinema Junpo Awards; the Reader's Choice for Best Film, Bunta Sugawara received Best Actor, and Best Screenplay for Kazuo Kasahara.[7] In 2009, the magazine named it fifth on an aggregated list of the Top 10 Japanese Films of All Time as voted by over one hundred film critics and writers.[8]

The film is credited as one of the first modern yakuza films; prior, movies about yakuza were known as Ninkyō eiga, "chivalry films", and set in pre-war Japan.[4] The A.V. Club's Noel Murray states that Fukasaku's yakuza instead only "adhere to codes of honor when it's in their best interest, but otherwise bully and kill indiscriminately."[9] Dennis Lim of the Village Voice writes "Fukasaku's yakuza flicks drain criminal netherworlds of romance, crush codes of honor underfoot, and nullify distinctions between good and evil."[10]

Sequels[edit]

Others

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